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France sets sights on Africa to boost international student numbers

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French universities are focusing on Africa, especially sub-Saharan countries, in their push for internationalisation.

According to national higher education agency Campus France, around 54 percent out of the 373,000 Africans seeking to study overseas came from francophone countries, based on 2013 data.

France is the third most popular study destination for internationally mobile students, reported Times Higher Education, following the U.S. and the UK.

However, it is particularly popular for African students, with its universities welcoming over 26.5 percent (or 92,000) of the total.

Most French universities teach in the French language, which is why it comes as no surprise that 98 percent of African students pursuing their studies in the country come from countries where French is a major language.

For example, in eight African nations, 50 percent or more of their students who go overseas choose institutions in France, like Algeria (85 percent), Madagascar (74 percent), and Senegal (67 percent).

But French universities are hoping to tap into the anglophone market in Africa as well.

English-speaking study destinations are slightly more attractive to students than francophone ones (41.1 percent over 37.4 percent), revealed a recent report by Campus France.

At Recontres Campus France 2016, held last month in Paris, French minister for foreign affairs and international development, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said that France’s internationalisation strategy in higher education had to be “much stronger, more efficient and more effective”.

He also emphasised the need to streamline visa processes and offer more courses taught in English.

French ambassador to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, expressed his disappointment that France had received such a small share of international students from Nigeria (419 in the academic year 2015-16), commenting that while there was “a political goal” for France to strengthen its ties with Africa, that aspiration was “not reflected at all in student flows”.

The event saw 140 French higher education institutions and about 30 African universities exchange thoughts and research on student/teacher mobility.

And it’s not just France that is seeing a fall in foreign students from the continent – in the same report, entitled La mobilité internationale des étudiants africains, the agency found that while around half of African students choose to study in Europe, it was gradually losing its share to other African countries and the Middle East. 

In its survey of nearly 1,800 African students who were currently studying abroad or had completed their stint, Campus France found that 68 percent chose to study overseas for a better education, while 47 percent wanted to take a course that wasn’t available in their home country, reported University World News.  

About half of the students who responded to the survey believed that having a degree from abroad would help them find a job, but most didn’t think it was a successful method for securing a job overseas, opting to return home instead.

Image via Shutterstock

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